Reframing story as a fundamental information form

Kate McDowell
Kate McDowell, Associate Professor

According to Associate Professor Kate McDowell, story is an important but often overlooked form of information. In her article, "Storytelling Wisdom: Story, Information, and DIKW," which was recently published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), McDowell calls for a new way of thinking about the DIKW pyramid. In her S-DIKW framework, story is connected to each of the fundamental information forms—data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.

"Most LIS and IS research focuses on individuals as information seekers," she said. "Storytelling centers audiences as groups and so opens new vistas of research into group information experience."

The new framework proposed by McDowell looks not only at information but also at the stories people tell and retell as a fundamental way of communicating information.

"When S-DIKW is enacted in future research, story and storytelling offer a starting point for powerful explanations of collective information experiences, analyzing how information-as-story contributes to group belief and belonging as well as comparison and contrast of story and misinformation," said McDowell. "All of these areas are vital to understanding basic information dynamics, such as why people retell stories (whether true or false), and how researchers can acknowledge information in story form not only as socially situated but also as a dynamic product of social exchange."

McDowell's storytelling research has involved training collaborations with advancement with both the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the University of Illinois system (Chicago, Springfield), storytelling consulting work for multiple nonprofits including the 50th anniversary of the statewide Prairie Rivers Network that protects Illinois water, and storytelling lectures for the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). McDowell formerly served as interim associate dean for academic affairs and assistant dean for student affairs at the iSchool at Illinois, and she has led multiple transformative projects for the School. She also researches and publishes in the areas of storytelling at work, social justice storytelling, and what library storytelling can teach the information sciences about data storytelling. McDowell holds both an MS and PhD in library and information science from Illinois.

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

iSchool researchers to present at CHI 2021

iSchool faculty and students will present their research at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2021), which will be held virtually from May 8-13. The conference, considered the most prestigious in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, attracts researchers and practitioners from around the globe. The theme for CHI 2021 is "Making Waves, Combining Strengths."

New project to promote COVID-19 vaccination

Patients with compromised health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, are at enhanced risk of contracting COVID-19. Unfortunately, these patients are also hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine because of their condition. A new project, led by Assistant Professor Jessie Chin, aims to develop an accessible, generalizable, and efficient digital health solution for promoting vaccination among vulnerable populations.

Jessie Chin

Seo to join iSchool faculty

The iSchool is pleased to announce that JooYoung Seo will join the faculty as an assistant professor in August 2021. He is a PhD candidate in the Learning, Design, and Technology program at Pennsylvania State University and also an RStudio double-certified data science instructor and accessibility expert certified by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).

JooYoung Seo

Twidale promotes usability for everyone, everywhere

According to Professor Michael Twidale, bad usability can be an irritation for everyone but "especially awful" for the underprivileged. In "Everyone Everywhere: A Distributed and Embedded Paradigm for Usability," which was recently published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), Twidale and coauthors David M. Nichols (University of Waikato, New Zealand) and Christopher P. Lueg (Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland) present a new paradigm to address the persistence of difficulties that people have in accessing and using information.

Professor Michael Twidale

IS 563 prepares students to better serve Spanish-speaking and Latinx populations

The iSchool's Library Resources for Spanish Speakers (IS 563) course was featured in a session at Seguimos Creando Enlaces (Creating Connections), a virtual conference held on March 25. Adjunct Lecturers Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros and Anne Barnhart teach the course, in which students explore differences in U.S. Spanish-speaking populations and examine information resources for meeting their needs. At the session, moderated by Barnhart and Espinosa de los Monteros, MS students Kristin Greer Love, Lea Weatherall, and Sylvia Figueroa-Ortiz as well as recent graduates Eddie Kristan (MS '20) and Aldo Vasquez (MS '18) shared their experiences taking the course.

iSchool Building